Saturday, July 8, 2017

Wonder and Whimsy Monthly Challenge - July Edition

As I was thinking about what my Monthly Challenge should be for this month, I realized that it's been quite some time since I dedicated one to a visual artist. Considering my love for Art History, that's a shame.

So! The inspiration for this July's Monthly Challenge, then, is another of my favorite artists. I've already done James McNeill Whistler and Edward Gorey, as well as Louis Comfort Tiffany and even the mosaic artists of ancient Rome.

Who am I focusing on this month, then? Let's see if you can guess:

Self-Portrait, 1887
Not my photo! From Wikimedia commons, found here.

That's right! Vincent van Gogh!

Vincent van Gogh is a fascinating character and a fantastic artist. He's probably most well known for his painting The Starry Night:

The Starry Night
Not my photo! From Wikimedia commons, found here.

...Although his other works are also quite lovely, and just as compelling.

Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers
Not my photo! From Wikimedia commons, found here.

Honestly, trying to sum up Van Gogh in one short blog entry is a bit daunting. He's known for his broad use of brush strokes, bold use of color--and his mental instability. In fact, he "exists in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius, the artist 'where discourses on madness and creativity converge'" (quote from the Wikipedia article, with an interior quote from Melissa McQuillan's 1989 work entitled Van Gogh).

Wheat Field with Cypresses
Not my photo! From Wikimedia commons, found here.

For some biographical information: he was born into an upper-middle-class family in 1853. He was very close to his younger brother Theo, the latter of whom supported him financially and encouraged him in his art. He had a rather complicated friendship with Paul Gauguin--which, incidentally, led to the famous ear-mutilation incident that everyone associates with Van Gogh. 

He died at age 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after a life of poverty and perceived failure. The ultimate "tragic artist," he only became famous after his death... And the physical causes of his psychotic episodes, depression, and mental turmoil have long been discussed by art historians and medical professionals alike.

Starry Night Over the Rhone
Not my photo! From Wikimedia commons, found here.

Just remembering him as a madman or a tortured genius doesn't do him justice, though. He was a innovative and prolific painter--with over 2,000 artworks credited to his name. These artworks include landscapes, still lifes, portraits of others, and portraits of himself, and are "characterized by... dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art" (source: again, Wikipedia).

Also of note is his use of color. He was fascinated by it. According to Robert Hughes in his work The Portable Van Gogh (2002), "Van Gogh perceived color as having a 'psychological and moral weight', as exemplified in the garish reds and greens of The Night Cafe, a work he wanted to 'express the terrible passions of humanity'. Yellow meant the most to him, because it symbolised emotional truth. He used yellow as a symbol for sunlight, life, and God." (Quoted from, you guessed it, Wikipedia).

The Sower
Not my photo! From Wikimedia commons, found here.

So, what does all this mean for my challenge this month? Mostly, I'm hoping to pay homage to this remarkable artist--inspired by his use of color and his broad painterly style.

I'll leave off with a quote from one of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who, wherein the eponymous Doctor is talking to a museum curator about Van Gogh's legacy:

The Doctor: Between you and me, in a hundred words, where do you think Van Gogh rates in the history of art? 
Curator: Well... um... big question, but, to me Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world's greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.*

Wow, those are some big shoes to fill! While I certainly don't think my offerings will be quite to that level of magnificence, come back on Friday, July 28th to see if I do justice to this challenge!

* - Disclaimer: While I love too many artists to say that I think Van Gogh is the best to ever live, I certainly agree that he was pretty spectacular! :)

1 comment:

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! :)